June: Month Of The DNF

Lately, I’ve been doing more of a month end followup with a listing of books I’d recommend from the month rather than packing the month with reviews. Not for June.

June kind of crystallized why I’ve been changing all of my book blogging and reviewing habits lately, including stepping down from the staff position at Envie! Magazine. Something is shifting for me.

Last month, I had 6 DNFs. That is more books in one month I didn’t finish than in the entirety of 2018 and almost half of my total for last year. In one month. And I’ve already added one to that so far in July and we are only on day 3.

What I did read and finish, I mostly wasn’t loving. They weren’t awful, but I just wasn’t as into them as I thought I’d be. Including books from authors I’d thoroughly enjoyed in the past. I found that new peeves are peaking their heads out and partying with my old peeves, making a nasty mess of an awful lot of books lately.

Apparently, I just need something different from my reading. Something I’m not getting and, at the moment, don’t even know what that something is. It is frustrating beyond belief. At the same time, I’m not looking at it as an entirely bad thing.

I know that a portion of that (only a small portion) is feeling a bit burned out at the “required” part of reading that I was starting to feel. Between having to have a review every month for the magazine (a positive review, mind you), the deadlines to get any NetGalley reviews completed and the personal push to post reviews on the majority of books I read, I over did it. And it’s not the first time. You’d have thought I learned the last time.

I needed the reminder and that is why I don’t see this weird state as so much a bad thing as it is an opportunity for me to shift my focus. I need to get back to why I was writing about books in the first place, writing about them because I felt like I actually had something to say, good or bad, and not just writing about a book because I read it.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is that as cool as it is to get books ahead of release day via NetGalley, I’d much rather have the official version rather than the not-always-clean ARC version. That peeve about not great editing or mistakes is amplified when you combine it with imperfect or non-existent formatting (definitely not all books from there are this way, but many have been). It makes it really hard to look past sometimes and just get to the story. And that is ultimately all I’m really after anyway, the story.

The other piece to this is when I get like this, not feeling all that satisfied with the books I’m reading, something else seems to spike in its place. It seems like this time it is going to be the drive to be really creative, in a number of ways. The photos are absolutely still a huge focus, but I want to try and dig a little deeper into them. I’ve also really been loving spending a lot of my time in my studio, whether it has been working on the masks or any number of smaller, “fix it” kind of projects.

Hubby and I have talked about actually finishing out that space. The lighting is atrocious. Any effort to rectify that will require a lot of other kinds of work, so might as well go all the way. With that in mind, I’ve been brainstorming what my ideal craft room/studio space would actually look like rather than a couple of random, crappy free standing cabinets on bare concrete floors and walls with an equally crappy folding table with probably a dozen storage bins in different locations across the basement holding all the various different bits of fabrics, yarn, and I’ve forgotten what all else that didn’t make it into said cabinets. The only really great thing I have in there is my workbench, which creates all kinds of other difficulties.

All that just means that I’m going through a shift. Where all the crafty, creative stuff has taken a backseat to the books the last few years, it may be going the other way for a while. I’m still not sure.

I want to spend some time trying to come up with a plan for my studio that is doable without being too much. Enough that I don’t feel like I have to put protective sheets over every surface to keep the cat hair, dust and pesky multi-legged creatures out of my space and make it more functional and appealing to spend time in. I want to spend more time there doing the creative bits and not the clearing things off so I can work bits, or the hunting down the materials bits.

I want to do that and still read, but I’m needing to rebalance my time. All those DNFs just managed to drive it home that it’s past time. I have a list of projects I want to work on or that I’ve considered. As soon as I get through recital next week, assuming I survive the stress, I’m going to start working on prioritizing and planning. And, hopefully, getting creative.

 

 

Another Day, New Chaos

The last couple of weeks have felt like I’ve been going constantly. Between projects I needed to get done, like the garage, and all the running to get BG to the studio and all the things that are wrapped up in nearing recital time, it seems like I’ve had very little down time. Doesn’t look like that is changing for at least a little while.

The new mask mandate from the city means that masks are required for BG’s dance recital. I’m still not 100% how exactly that is going to work, though it should seem very straight forward. I knew that the studio staff was going to be stressing about it, especially the visual of masks on stage.

I’ve offered to make masks for all the girls in opening tap that match their costumes. That is about 55 additional masks. I’d love to do enough for all the staff and assistants for the assistants dance as well, but I just won’t have the time for that many. I’ll be pushing the time frame as it is to get these done.

The teacher was a little stunned by my offer and more the willing to take it. It will give them at least one performance, their big one, where everyone on stage has the same look, something that will be impossible to pull off for every single other performance. Even though they will match the costume for that performance, they will still be basic enough to look really good with all their other costumes as well.

As with the masks I made for the staff earlier, it is kind of a selfish motivation. If I can get as many of these kids wearing masks as I can, it helps to protect my own kid and also helps to make her not feel like she stands out as the only one.

There is apparently still some question, despite the mask mandate, as to whether they are required while the dancers are on stage. The audience and everyone backstage, absolutely. On stage? There is some belief that it isn’t. I’m not sure how that works out as far as justification goes. Because of that, there is a chance that my efforts will be for nothing as the dancers will then be allowed a choice. If the classes I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks are any indication, I doubt there will be anyone on stage with a mask.

I’m still doing it anyway. Just in case. And as an encouragement. Anything at all to try and help.

Besides, everything could change in another week. Or day.

We’ve also got the official word that MC will be staying on campus this fall. They’ve made changes to the housing plans so that he will have his own bedroom and bathroom, but will still be sharing a living space with another student.

He has to follow a plan for a couple of weeks before going to campus to monitor his health and then he has to be tested before being allowed in his room. I have no idea what that means once he is on campus. Will they not be allowing students to leave at all once they are there? I don’t really know how they can control that or ensure that students don’t do something that could expose them and bring it back to campus.

I’m really surprised by it all. This school already has a large online presence, so I’m a little baffled by their push for not only in person classes but the requirement to stay on campus. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice in the matter as MC’s scholarship has a requirement that he live on campus his freshman year.

I’m really not taking anything as definitive at this point, but I’m trying to think ahead, just in case.

The upside to finding out MC will be on campus is that he has already gotten the name and contact information of his roommate and has already reached out. So far, they don’t have a lot in common other than they both play a particular video game. MC was a little surprised they paired him with a nursing student and not another computer science student, but he doesn’t seem too bothered by it.

As of right now, we’ve gotten no communication from BG’s school with regards to going back in the fall, so that one is still very much an unknown. Even with all of this, I know that tomorrow may change it all, so whatever plans are in place are far from concrete.

I guess the big downside to living in an area that still has really low case numbers is that so many things still want to move forward like nothing is going on. It gives people a false sense of security or feeling of immunity. That doesn’t even take into account the anti-mask crowd and their attitudes.

I have no clue what it is actually going to look like in two weeks when we attempt to have this recital. The social distancing plan for the audience is still very much in place as is the dressing room assignments, though masks are now also required. For that, I’m hugely relieved, though I would not want to be in the position to have to attempt to enforce that rule.

For now, I’m back in mask making mode and thinking ahead to what kinds of things I will need to have in place if MC does actually end up on campus this fall.

 

Dusty Sunset

The last couple of days we’ve had some amazing sunsets thanks in part to the Saharan dust in the air.

Yesterday in particular. All day you could see the haze in the air, so I knew if the majority of the clouds dispersed, we would have another beautiful one. I was not disappointed in the least. Obviously, because I couldn’t just choose one to share today.

I was out taking photos for about an hour and took over a hundred photos, most of them turning out really wonderful with only slight differences between each image, hence the difficulty in deciding which ones to share.

Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset

I tested out a new sunset spot and, for the most part, I really like it because I can get the whole sky. I’m not a huge fan of the power lines, but I’m not going to be too picky.

Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset

When the sun got to right at the horizon line, it started to get this awesome ombre look.

Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset

Some of my favorite skies are the ones that look almost like they were painted. There were a couple of points through this sunset that the sky definitely came close last night.

Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset
Saharan Dust Sunset

End Of The Day

Dance picture day yesterday turned into “take all the pictures” day.

I always take photos of BG in her costumes at home, or as much as I can without making her change a billion times. For the first time, she allowed me to also take some outside the studio where they have their dancer silhouette on the wall. It is the standard parent kind of shot, but she’s never let me get one before, so I was really excited to finally be able to.

And, DAMN!! Those are some of the best photos I’ve take of her. I’m talking, a couple of them at least, look like the kind of shots you’d see on a magazine cover. It makes me so damn tempted to break my “no photos of the kids” rule here on my blog just to share it.

It helps that two of the costumes in those photos are some of my favorite ever, the top one being the costume for opening tap this year. It is this phenomenal get up and she absolutely rocks the hell out of it. I cannot get over how stunning she looks in it. He teacher even stole the image (with permission) and posted it on the studio’s page because it is so classic for the look and feel they try to get with that performance.

Since I was already deep into photo mode, I was keeping a close eye on the weather and lighting as I still had another set of photos MC wanted me to take to include in his “senior photo package” we’ve been working on. Shockingly, everything came together and we had a gorgeous evening with a long golden hour that was absolutely perfect.

I dragged both him and BG out because I also wanted to try and get a good one of the two of them together and we spent probably an hour taking photos. I took nearly 400 pictures in all yesterday (and no, they weren’t all good, not by a long shot) and, I think, managed to finish up the pictures that MC wanted. Hopefully. I did also manage to get a couple of really good ones of the two of them together so I have some new photos for my family photo walls.

Of course, because I was already there and the sky was gorgeous, I made them wait just a little longer after we were done before we could go home so I could grab a couple of sunset shots as well.

MC made it abundantly clear that he would prefer that if I had my camera nearby that someone else should be in the driver’s seat of the car because I spend as much time trying to see what’s going on with the sky as I do the road. He was teasing, but… he also isn’t entirely wrong. It is such a joy to drive with two newish driving teenagers in the car pointing out every single thing you do that isn’t strictly by the book.

In all, it was a great day. BG got her dance photos out of the way (I nailed the car dressing room perfectly). I was able to finish up with MC’s photos and got a few fun ones of my own along the way.

Of course, it was also a typical roulette wheel of “What New Random Loop Is Going To Get Thrown At You Today” kind of day as well because our mayor announced a mandatory mask requirement for all indoor public spaces (with a few strict exceptions) that is going to last for at least the next couple of weeks. This covers the time frame for recital, so I have zero clue how the studio is going to work that one out as it includes the dancers on stage.

I’m in “wait and see” mode again, but I still have to make sure she has everything that she needs, including new tights and a few extra small things. It is so odd waiting on things I ordered knowing there is a high chance they won’t be used, at least not this year. We may hear more today when she goes to the studio for her last ballet class before recital.

At least I have pictures!

Where’s The Line?

Have you ever done something that you’ve really heavily invested in, be it money or time and effort, and just kept having things go wrong? There comes a point where you have to decide to either just scrap that investment and move on or keep dumping into it hoping things will eventually fall into place. When do you find that breaking point where you scrap it all? Do you ever?

This is where I feel BG’s dance studio is at. Sort of. It is so damn complicated.

I’ve mentioned before what a normal year looks like. Two large shows with both a dress rehearsal night and a recital night. Prior to that is the excitement of getting costumes and having a big event with picture days. All of this after lots of class hours in the studio learning the routines.

This is so not a normal year, obviously. Apparently, it isn’t all because of the virus and issues radiated out from that, either.

We learned yesterday that a second costume BG was supposed to get, her assistants’ costume, is different than what they initially ordered. This is the third one that I’m aware of at the studio and BG gets two of them. The first one that got changed, the ballet costume, is… just not like anything they would normally get. I won’t say it is awful, because it really isn’t. It is just really plain and basic and that isn’t a direction they go in choosing costumes. It was kind of a disappointment to pretty much every single girl. We don’t find out until Sunday what the assistant costumes look like.

I’d heard that this may just be a problem with the vendor in general that was an issue before things started shutting down and not even directly related to the virus.

They scrapped the costume entirely for hip hop early on and are just going with a t-shirt and the girls will wear their own dance pants instead.

Those 2 shows are now 5 and only parents of the kids in the classes for that specific show, not counting the girls that do opening tap and assistants (they have their own show and BG is one of those), are allowed to attend that show. Normally anyone can go to any show and it isn’t a problem. They have had to resort to issuing tickets and limiting each family to 4 to ensure that they can keep the people in the audience distanced. Because of that, we cannot be at all 5 shows that BG dances in, only her one assigned show, making us scramble to figure out the logistics of it all when normally I’d just go and be at the venue the entire time.

That requires a whole other host of problems that cropped up in the issuing of those tickets. Even with them doing all the numbers and leg work to make sure every family had the opportunity to get seats and still have extra room, a few of those shows still “sold out” (they are not charging for these tickets, it is only a reservation kind of thing) leaving some families unable to get seats. I don’t know if that is because there was some sort of glitch in their system or if some families just refused to follow the rules. I’m leaning toward a little bit of both.

They have had to scrap the usual class group photos for their picture day and are only doing individuals, of which we had to schedule appointments for each photo (one for each costume) and they cannot change at the studio. I have a makeshift dressing room set up in the back of my car so BG can change without us having to drive back and forth between the studio and home a dozen times.

These are just some of the more out there and obvious things that I personally know about. I won’t even get into the lack of mask wearing by a very large majority of the kids in the classes, a majority that grows with the age of the class apparently (meaning BG’s class has her and maybe one or two other girls that actually follow this rule) or the number of places I’ve heard of kids traveling, including out of the country and to states with high case numbers, and yet are still planning on returning to class as soon as they get back.

I cannot even begin to fathom all the time and money (at the very least, the cost of the extra costumes, but I know is actually so much more) they have invested in this. I’m absolutely certain that if this were just about any other studio, this would have been canceled when they couldn’t hit their original recital dates. I truly admire and appreciate every last bit of the effort they are making for all of these kids.

But…

Sometimes you really have to stop and wonder if the Universe isn’t trying to tell you something. I am pretty certain they feel like they are past the point of no return with all they have done up to this point. I get it. I really wouldn’t want to be in their position.

Sadly, it isn’t even close to done yet. We still have a few weeks before the recital and case counts are going up. Our mayor is probably going to be issuing a mandatory mask rule in public spaces in the next couple of days.

It is such an ugly situation with no good solutions. I am wondering how worth it is going to be in the end when the result is so very unlike what it would have been normally, especially if it is such a disappointment to so many people, like with the costumes. I don’t know that we are there just yet, but it is really starting to feel like it.

For today, I have to prep for pictures this afternoon and feel grateful I didn’t plan on getting a professional one of BG in her assistants’ costume because she doesn’t even have it yet. I’m still hanging by a thread on having her participate in the recital at this point. We’ve all discussed it and are watching the case counts and she is being a rock star at wearing her mask even when she feels so alone in doing so.

The closer we get, though, the more I really kind of wish they’d finally hit their breaking point and just throw in the towel. I also know that is so unlikely to happen unless it is mandated by health officials.

The stress from all of this is off the charts.

 

End Of An Era

Yesterday saw the official end to our annual haunted garage that we used to do every year for Halloween. Even though we didn’t actually put the walls up last Halloween and was the beginning of the end, it didn’t become official until yesterday. I took advantage of the beautifully cooler day and tore the walls apart.

Broken Down Halloween Walls
Broken Down Halloween Walls

Why is it that destruction is so much faster and easier to do than creating and building? What took me nearly an entire day or better to build was in pieces in about an hour.

It was sad to see these go. We had nearly 10 years of fun and wonder and joy doing the garage every year, but it was just time to be done. It was pretty shocking they even lasted that long considering they weren’t all that sturdy to begin with.

The kids are all older. MC hasn’t been interested in it for a few years now and BG, while perfectly content to dress up with me, just wasn’t nearly as excited about it anymore. It also lost some of it’s joy when the few kids we would get showing up just didn’t seem all that interested in it, some even going so far as to be that bratty kid that thought it was fun to mock and put it down.

Once I decided I definitely wasn’t doing this anymore, I was itching to get these taken apart and reclaim the area of the garage where these needed to be stored. Six 8 foot by 8 foot wall sections take up a crap ton of space. Especially when that space is used for all but maybe 2 days a year.

I spent the day yesterday breaking these down and then cleaning and rearranging the garage, a desperately needed project. I now have a wonderfully open and accessible garage that will hopefully stay that way for a while.

I also have a huge pile of wood I need to get creative with, which is going to be a challenge as most of those boards are really warped or even cracked in places. As of right now, I’m pondering the idea of making an outdoor storage box with most of it. I’ve yet to decide for sure.

While it was really sad to do this project, it was also a relief. It was always a lot of work, but also a whole lot of fun. The fun will be missed. All that work? Not one little bit.

Now to figure out what in the world I’m going to do with all the decorations we used in that haunted garage.

Shape Of Water Series #1

I really liked the concept of the photo series I did with the peonies, so I’m going to repeat it with this theme. I again enlisted the help of BG in creating some waves and movement in the pool so I could take photos of the play of water and light that happens when it is in motion. I did this last year and came out with some phenomenal photos and I wanted to see if I could pull it off again.

Nearly 600 photos later (easy to pull off when you are in action mode and holding down the button), and I managed to get quite a few. I was surprised by how few, but I also attempt to try and do some of these with my macro lens as well as my zoom. The macro lens just does not respond fast enough to get focused. I did get some while using that lens, but not many. I did get more than enough overall to run these as a series, though.

Like with the peony series, I’ll mix in other subjects along the way.

Peony’s End Series #8

This is probably going to be the last of this series and also just so happens to be one of my favorites.

One of the things I love about this one is that there are three separate flowers, all in very different stages of life. It just almost has that maiden/mother/crone kind of thing going on, but narrowly misses that symbology.

When I first pulled this one up on my computer, it gave me the feeling of the kind of image you’d see in the background of a rustic wedding theme. Like something you’d see on a wedding web page or even in the background of an invitation, especially if it were to be softened and faded out a bit. Of course, that made me want to play a bit.

Peony Cluster In Various Stages - Soft Version
Peony Cluster In Various Stages – Soft Version

Some photos just really work with that softer focus kind of look. I really like both versions and couldn’t decide which I’d rather post, so I’m doing both since this is the end of the series.

And just because… I have the soft one in a pretty black and white as well.

Peony Cluster In Various Stages - Soft Black And White Version
Peony Cluster In Various Stages – Soft Black And White Version